The protein debate? Just choose the right ones

Do you remember the war against fat? For years, the medical community has declared that fats were our number one enemy, responsible for all sorts of diseases and that they had to be absolutely reduced.

Regardless of the fact that calories removed from fat reduction were often recovered with sugar, doctors have for years promoted fat reduction almost like a magic mantra to lose weight, to prevent heart attack, to reduce risk of cancer.

In those days, few wondered if scientific data really confirmed this thesis. As often happens in the history of science and medicine, the majority of experts did not necessarily support the most correct thesis but simply the most popular one.

In the same way, for years, doctors have suggested that the muscles and the brain need sugars and that these, not only are not harmful, but are essential for feeling energetic. So, off with pasta, bread, pizza, croissants, various desserts but, for heaven’s sake, without butter!

TO FIND OUT MORE: Health expenditure

The picture that emerges today is very different from the one sustained for years and is now so solid that no one can, in good conscience, continue to deny it: fats not only do not hurt but are essential for optimal health, even, in moderate doses, in their saturated version. On the other hand, sugars are never good for you.

Looking at the current fashion crusade against protein, I feel like I’m reliving the history of fats. When you hear ordinary people on the street say ” by now everyone knows that proteins are bad ” there is really to be worried! I remember how many times I have heard triumphantly from people who ate badly “I don’t eat anything fat”.

The war against proteins will have the same result as the fight against fats: at some point it will be recognized that a correct dose of protein is essential for our health.

As with fats, also with proteins, the data to support this is already available to us.

The term protein comes from the Greek and means ” of primary importance “. In fact they are fundamental for a long series of reasons of which I mention only the main ones:

  1. Our body is made up largely of proteins
  2. Many hormones are proteins
  3. Dietary proteins give a much greater sense of satiety than other foods
  4. Protein foods have a significant thermogenic effect (25 kilocalories are already consumed to metabolize 100 kilocalories of protein)
  5. Proteins taken with food are essential for maintaining muscle mass and muscle loss is one of the factors that triggers and accelerates the aging process. Find out here which are the best proteins to introduce: animal or vegetable?

How to behave then in everyday life? There are two aspects that must be taken into consideration and which are often confused:

1. The correct daily dose

The total amount of protein consumed in a day depends on the level of physical activity. There is talk of 0.8-1 gram per kilo of weight in sedentary patients, 1-1.5 in active and sporty people and up to 2 g in athletes. Some scientific societies suggest reaching 1.2 g after the age of 60 precisely to allow greater support to muscle mass.

Many foods contain protein but it is foods of animal origin that have the highest concentration. Furthermore, in these foods the proteins contain the optimal profile of amino acids which gives them a greater biological value. It does not mean that you cannot also eat plant foods rich in proteins such as legumes or pseudo-cereals such as quinoa.

However, it should be borne in mind that these also always provide a lot of carbohydrates and are not complete as regards the amino acid profile.

To complete the deficiencies they should be combined with other foods such as whole grains. In doing so, however, two foods very rich in carbohydrates are combined, which makes meals often unbalanced in terms of macronutrients. The calculation of the protein requirement should be done by a doctor and can be determined on the basis of the tables of values nutritional values ​​of food.

There are no data indicating a danger to either the kidneys or the liver in using correct doses of protein. The alleged damage is another example of unscientific thinking: if I have to reduce the proteins in kidney disease patients, it means that the proteins are bad for the kidneys. No it does not. After all, wouldn’t it be absurd to suggest not to sit on chairs because a broken chair doesn’t hold a person’s weight?

2. Origin and treatment

What is much more important for our health is to choose proteins well. The type of protein food, processing and cooking make a big difference. Processed meats for example (sausages, frankfurters, cured meats, sausages, canned meat) are undoubtedly to be limited also for their sodium and preservative content.

Red meat in general should be chosen based on the animal’s breeding methodology. A pasture-raised animal provides very different meat to a similar intensively reared and grain-fed animal.

Red meat should be cooked very lightly or eaten raw because its exposure to high temperatures produces potentially carcinogenic amines.

It is however recommended not to exceed 400 grams per week. Poultry should be chosen organic, raised on the ground in a natural way.

Eggs, also organic, are an excellent source of protein, mistakenly demonized over the years for the famous fight against fat.

In most cases they do not create any problems if taken in the context of a correct and healthy diet. Fish should be the preferred source of animal proteins also for the supply of omega 3. Better to choose small fish (less polluted) and fresh fish.

Legumes can certainly be part of the protein intake and, for those who eat milk and dairy products, even cheeses if taken not after meat or fish but in their place. In those who have to reach high daily intakes due to very intense physical activity, it becomes useful to include supplements such as whey protein powder.

These not only have an optimal bio-availability to help the muscle in recovery but are healthy in a broad sense as they stimulate the immune system through active peptides (including lactoferrin and lactoglobulin). A separate discussion deserves all the debate regarding whether protein powders are bad for you.

A new study shows that animal protein is bad for you? Things are not quite like that … I’ll clarify a bit in this video:

There is therefore no reason to completely eliminate animal proteins (if not for an ethical choice that should not be confused with a healthy one and if anything supported by advice that compensates for its deficiencies).

What must instead be done is to learn to choose the correct sources and identify the dosages suitable for your weight, activity level and age. Let’s not be guided by trends and current thinking . Health must be seen in the long term.

The speed of aging in astronauts is incredibly accelerated: six months in orbit equals ten years on Earth. This acceleration is largely due to the loss of muscle mass. To age well and live life to the fullest we cannot overlook the importance of a correct protein intake associated with regular physical training for maintaining the functionality of our muscles.

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